DixPix Photographs

     

TROPICAL CENTRAL AMERICA

 
     
  Flora- The ASPARAGALES  

 

Strange though it may sound, Asparagales is a botanical Order which includes several monocotyledon families, of which the Agaves and the Irises are most easily recognized.  Several flowers from this group are called lilies, but the true lilies are now from another Order and have their own page. The Orchids also belong here, but that is an immense and messy group that is treated separately.  The asparagus plant is indeed from this Order, but onions, garlic, daffodils and tequila may also be appreciated. 

The Asparagaceae Family itself may well be heading for a break-up, but at present it is large, perhaps 5000 species, and the Agaves are considered a sub-family.

 

The Maianthemum genus has been tried out in a number of families, and at time of writing is housed with the Asparagaceae, but it may well jump again.  M. paniculatum with ripe fruit. Click to see big picture (538x480 pixels; 100 KB)

Maianthemum is not really a tropical genus at heart, and these photos are from high on Volcan Baru in Panama. M. paniculatum.

Click to see big picture (640x443 pixels; 113 KB)
A giant species of Maianthemum flowering at the botanical Gardens at Univ. of Berkeley, said to be from Guatemala.
Echeandia flavescens ranges from the U.S. into southern Mexico, preferring the high ground in the south.  Sometimes referred to as Torrey's Crag LilyEcheandia flavescens is a synonym. Click to see big picture (453x480 pixels; 96 KB)


The Agave type of plants are collected into the Subfamily Agavoideae.  Most call Mexico home, and the majority would prefer semi-arid terrain to the tropics. The term Maguey is often used in Mexico, where certain species are used for making Tequila and Mescal.  One striking feature is that most species flower only once and then die.  Despite the long wait for a flower stalk, some have become garden favorites in warmer parts of the world. 

 
Flowering at the Botanical Gardens in Bogota, this is likely Furcraea andina, native to the Andes from here to Peru.  Along with another species, it is called Cabuya and the source of fiber known as Fique, used in making ropes, etc. Click to see big picture (633x480 pixels; 106 KB)
Furcraea selloa is also Colombian by birthright, but this example is mired at the Quail Gardens in California.  It goes by the name of Wild Sisal. Click to see big picture (633x480 pixels; 94 KB)
Also on display in California, Furcraea roezlii, in this case at the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco.  It calls central Mexico home, and it is here just starting to send up its huge floral spike.  F. parmentieri is an alias. Click to see big picture (346x480 pixels; 102 KB)
Furcraea macdougalii is betimes known as Macdougal's Hemp as the result of its strong fibers. It is native to southern Mexico, but here at Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
Species of the Agave genus are easy to recognize, with their large clusters of fat leaves, often with sharp points.  One of the reasons that they are popular in gardens is that they need little water or other attention. Click to see big picture (636x480 pixels; 86 KB)
And when they do get around to flowering, the results can be spectacular. Click to see big picture (496x480 pixels; 70 KB)
Perhaps the most widely known species is Agave americana, known as the Century Plant, despite the fact that it really only lasts between 10 and 30 years before flowering and dying.    Click to see big picture (363x480 pixels; 42 KB)
A closer view of the Century Plant flower.  It originated in Mexico, but is now widely planted in the warmer parts of the world, and has naturalized in many areas. Click to see big picture (640x480 pixels; 94 KB)
Agave atrovirens also goes under the name of A. latissima.  It is native to much of Mexico, but this specimen is blooming in great style at the UC Botanical Gardens, Berkeley. Click to see big picture (309x480 pixels; 53 KB)
Agave atrovirens, when at home, is called Maguey del Montaña, and is one of the species used to prepare the liquor known as mezcal. Click to see big picture (520x480 pixels; 81 KB)
But I am told that the best mezcal is made from Agave potatorum of southern Mexico.  It goes by names such as Maguey Mezcalero and Tobala. agave mezcal
The Fox Tail Agave (A. attenuata) is a big garden favorite, having unarmed leaves and a flower spike that bends over before straightening out.  It does not always die after flowering.  It started as a rare native in the mountains of central Mexico. Click to see big picture (507x480 pixels; 100 KB)
The Gypsum Agave (Agave gypsophylla) originated in southern mexico, but is prized for its unusual colors and is more likely to be found in gardens.  Lotusland, Montecito, Calif.
The Yuccas are assigned to the agave subfamily.  This is Yucca gigantea, also known as Y. elephantipes, and it can grow into a tree.  Its natural range is from Mexico to Costa Rica, but this one is showing off in the Royal Gardens in Madrid.  Click to see big picture (431x480 pixels; 111 KB)
Yucca flowers are very different from those of the agaves, and several species have become standard for designing gardens in warm climates. Click to see big picture (553x480 pixels; 74 KB)
The genus Dasylirion is native to much of Mexico, where the plants are called Sotol and used for both medicines and fibre.  The term sotol is also used for a liquor produced from the plant.  In English, the term Beargrass is often applied. Click to see big picture (549x480 pixels; 108 KB)
The Botanical Gardens at Berkeley University seem to specialize in the Beschorneria species, which are indeed impressive when blooming.  Here are pods and full plant of B. albiflora.  Unlike agaves, they need a lot of water and are not for xerophytic gardens. Click to see big picture (640x406 pixels; 132 KB)
And here are the flowers of Beschorneria albiflora, which is native in southern Mexico and Guatemala.  The genus tends to be called Lirio Mexicano when at home. Click to see big picture (640x459 pixels; 115 KB)
Beschorneria yuccoides hales from southern Mexico.  Its flower stalk looks more congested. Click to see big picture (640x399 pixels; 111 KB)
This one is known as Beschorneria rigida, although this stalk looks less than rigid.  It is native to central Mexico. Click to see big picture (631x480 pixels; 158 KB)
Beaucarnea recurvata is known as the Ponytail Palm, or just as Ponytail, which is better as it is not a palm.  It originated in east-central Mexico, but has become popular in gardens, largely because of its unusual swollen trunk base.  This is a red raceme form, at Lotusland in Montecito, California.
Beaucarnea recurvata, also at Lotusland.  This citizen of central Mexico is known as the Bottle Palm, despite not being a palm nor looking much like a bottle.
The vanilla-scented Spider (or Crinium) Lily, Hymenocallis littoralis is native to the coasts of Central America.  It is now planted around the tropics, in fact this photo is from Sarawak.  It is from the Amaryllis Family, Amaryllidaceae, which is presently in flux with disputed limits. Click to see big picture (571x480 pixels; 70 KB)
From the same family are the Rain Lilies of the Zephyranthes genus, which are mostly of temperate climates, but widely planted. Click to see big picture (640x347 pixels; 75 KB)
From the El Dorado Reserve in the Santa Marta Mountains of northeastern Colombia, a lily-like flower which I have not been able to identify.
An Amazon Lily, likely Eucharis candida (perhaps E. formosa) in the Wild Sumaco Reserve, Ecuador.
Hypoxis decumbens (or H. hirsuta) has adapted from Canada to well into South America under the name of Goldstar.  It is from the Hypoxidaceae, a small and recently defined family.  Click to see big picture (307x480 pixels; 55 KB)

Iridaceae, the Iris Family, was named for the rainbow and can claim as many as 300 species and many cultivars.  It adds color to gardens and ponds, but it is not really much at home in the tropics.

 
Orthrosanthus chimboracensis graces the highlands from Mexico to Bolivia.  Named for the Chimborazo Volcano in Ecuador, it prefers not to become involved in the tropical forests below.  Its name Dawn Flower comes from the fact that it blooms blue each morning and fades to white during the day.  Univ. of B.C. Botanical Gardens. Click to see big picture (551x480 pixels; 80 KB)
And here is Orthosanthus chimboracensis about to unfurl on the slopes of Chimborazo Mountain itself in Ecuador.
From the Santa Marta mountains of northeastern Colombia, this is Neomarica gracilis.  It is reported from scattered locations in the highlands of Mesoamerica.
It is called the Mexican Shell Flower and the Aztecs named it after the jaguar.  It seems native also to Guatemala and Colombia, but is here at the UBC Botanical Garden.  Tigrida pavonia comes in many colors and cultivars, and produces a new flower each morning. Click to see big picture (499x480 pixels; 99 KB)
The Yellow Walking Iris is adapted to the tropics, ranging for south Mexico to South America under the title of Trimezia martinicensis Click to see big picture (608x480 pixels; 67 KB)